Tributes were pouring in this week for Richard Dunn, the former
chief executive of Thames Television, who died suddenly at his home on
Dunn, who was 54, presided over the London weekday TV company during its
heyday in the 80s until the company lost its licence in the early 90s,
and earned a reputation as one of the gentlemen of the TV industry.
Dunn joined Thames in 1978 as a personal assistant to the programme
director, Jeremy Isaacs, rising to director of production by 1981. He
took over from Bryan Cowgill as chief executive of the company in
It was Dunn who took Thames public in 1988, masterminded the company’s
investment in the Astra satellite and had to face the disappointment of
losing the London weekday licence in the 1991 franchise round.
He established Thames as an independent production company, going on to
engineer a failed bid for the Channel 5 licence, launching UK Gold and
then steering the sell-out of Thames to Pearson Television. Dunn left
Thames in 1995 when Greg Dyke was brought in over his head as chief
executive of Pearson Television. Dunn went on to become executive
director of News International Television, a post he held until last
Half-Icelandic and often described as urbane, charming and diplomatic,
Dunn earned himself incredible loyalty among his staff at Thames. Nick
Milligan, sales director of Channel 5 and a former head of sales at
Thames, recalls the support Dunn received when Thames lost its licence
in the early 90s.
’We decided to still go ahead with our sales conference,’ Milligan
remembers, ’and Richard came along as a guest of honour. As he walked
into dinner, the sales team stood on their chairs cheering and chanting
’there’s only one Dicky Dunn’.
’Richard started crying. Then he put on a T-shirt we’d bought him. It
said ’I bid pounds 22.6 million for our licence and all I got was this
lousy T-shirt’. He was an extraordinary man with immense stature and
presence. God knows we’ll all miss him so much. It really is a tragedy.’